Next week, the president of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, will be visiting New York.
Iran has been at war with the United States for almost thirty years, ever since the Iranian hostage crisis in 1979. On that occasion, as part of a coup against the Shah, extremist Islamist students invaded the grounds of the United States embassy, and took hostage the diplomats and other American citizens.
Under international law, an embassy is the sovereign territory of the country which owns it, so the armed invasion and occupation of our embassy by Iranian forces has the same legal effect as if they'd done the same in Virginia. This is an automatic act of war, and has been for many hundreds of years. The war thus technically started, has never been resolved by treaty, or even by an official armistice.
From that day to this, Iran has participated in further acts of war against us and our allies, both overt - as in the recent capture of British sailors in Iraqi sovereign waters - and covert, as in their longstanding support for terrorist entities such as Hamas and Hezbollah.
So despite the fact that the United States has generally not seen fit to acknowledge the war in progress and respond accordingly, it's more than a bit odd that Ahmadinejad will be personally present in our financial capital, not merely immune from arrest and immediate imprisonment, but in fact protected by the U.S. Secret Service.
This strange anomaly can occur because of the presence on Manhattan of a strip of international territory known as the United Nations. Under the founding treaties governing the establishment of the U.N., diplomats and world leaders generally have the right to come to New York on U.N. business, regardless of how the U.S. government might feel about them. Whether or not this is a good idea is a subject for another time; but the fact remains, Ahmadinejad has something resembling a legal right to be here, and here he shall be.
As one of the leading sponsors of terrorism, it shows more than a little chutzpah for him to request a visit to the former site of the World Trade Towers - that place where 3,000 Americans died as the result of a terrorist attack. While it's unlikely that he plans to dance a little jig on the viewing platform and wave "V for Victory" symbols, it's not too much of a stretch to imagine that going through his mind. Naturally, virtually everyone who is anyone in American politics and media has roundly condemned any thought that he should be allowed to desecrate that hallowed ground with his noisome presence.
They are making a mistake. Ahmadinejad should not only be permitted to visit Ground Zero, he should be encouraged to do so. He should be allowed into the pit as he's requested. It may be a dangerous area, but he is making that request of his own free will, and if a chunk of concrete should happen to fall on his head, he'll have only himself to blame.
Furthermore, he should be accompanied on this tour by Sen. Hillary Clinton (D, N.Y.) and Mayor Rudy Giuliani, America's Mayor of 9/11 leadership fame.
Why should this madman, who supports evil, seeks the ultimate in destructive weapons, and threatens the annihilation of his neighbors and death to the "Great Satan" America, be according such a mark of respect? It's quite simple.
During the days of the Soviet Union, the left always considered that we should talk and negotiate with the Communist leadership, and the right generally resisted doing so, saying that they were murderers and madmen and there would be no point. Sure enough, Lenin was a murderer and a madman. Stalin was a murderer and a madman. And Gorbachev... well, he wasn't. At least, he wasn't a madman. Even the right recognized this to be the case.
It's been reported that, when Reagan met Gorbachev at an international summit, he requested a private meeting - no diplomats, no aides, just the two of them privately, with trusted translators. And in effect, he said, "We are both grandfathers. Neither of us want our grandchildren to die in a nuclear war. Cannot we work together to make that less likely?" And it worked.
Supposing it hadn't? Supposing Gorbachev had responded as did Khrushchev, by banging his shoe and shouting, "We will bury you!" Nothing would have been lost, but something most important would have been gained - clarity of vision of the evil confronting us.
So by all means, allow Ahmadinejad to tour Ground Zero. Have Giuliani and Clinton, New Yorkers and leading candidates for the presidency, show him around, and tell him stories of the heroism of Americans on that day. Place before him the survivors, ordinary Americans - the secretary who climbed down 50 stories, the maintenance worker who helped carry out the injured, the rescue workers who ran in when everyone else was running out.
And all the while, let the skies over Ground Zero be filled with squadron after squadron of the U.S. Air Force - fighters and stealth bombers, airborne command posts and radar planes, transports and trainers. Air Force pilots must train and practice their skills regularly, so the costs of this exercise would be relatively small.
This plan will have three possible effects, any of which are an improvement over the current situation.
If Ahmadinejad is the "reasonable man" the left claims him to be, the sight of Ground Zero, and the stories of that day which he will hear, may have some effect on him. The left believes him to be amenable to negotiation concerning his support for terrorism. Well, let him see the result of it; if he has a conscience, he will change his mind.
Failing that, it's long been recognized that Middle Eastern cultures respect force, perhaps even more so than most. On feeling the anger of New Yorkers over 9-11, in a very direct and personal way, he may not want to bring our anger on his own people or on anyone else's, and a breakthrough in negotiations over his nuclear program will be forthcoming.
We can all hope that one or the other of these happy results takes place. Nothing in his history or rhetoric, however, gives us cause to believe that Ahmadinejad feels a sense of conscience even towards his fellow Muslims, much less "infidels" such as we. Nor is he unaware of the might of the U.S. military; for various reasons, he simply does not believe that it can be effectively applied against him.
That being the case, there is still a third result from this tour of Ground Zero. We can all agree that the sight and story of 9-11 should have an effect on almost anyone, causing them to hope that nothing like it ever happens again. If it does not have this effect on Ahmadinejad, then it will clearly demonstrate him to be, indeed, the evil man the right believes him to be. So the peacenik left can sit down and shut up, and allow us to do what we should have done thirty years ago - respond to the terrorist mullahcracy that rules Iran in the manner in which, under international law, is our right.
"Talk to them first!" Fine. Do so, and see what happens; then move on and do what needs to be done.